U.S. energy companies added oil rigs for the seventh time in the last eight weeks on expectations crude prices in 2018 will top 2017, prompting more drillers to boost spending plans for this year. Drillers added four oil rigs in the week to March 16, bringing the total count to 800, General Electric Co’s Baker Hughes energy services firm said in its closely followed report on Friday. The U.S. rig count, an early indicator of future output, is much higher than a year ago when 631 rigs were active as energy companies have continued to boost spending since mid-2016 when crude prices began recovering from a two-year crash.
U.S. crude futures traded around $62 a barrel this week, about 7 percent below levels hit in January when prices rose to $66.66, their highest since December 2014. That compares with averages of $50.85 in 2017 and $43.47 in 2016. Looking ahead, futures were trading around $61 for the balance of 2018 and $57 for calendar 2019. In anticipation of higher prices in 2018 than 2017, U.S. financial services firm Cowen & Co said 58 of the roughly 65 exploration and production (E&P) companies they track have already provided capital expenditure guidance indicating an 11 percent increase in planned spending over 2017.